Blood Pact: A tale full of cheering and demonic fury

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Blood Pact: A tale full of cheering and demonic fury
Every week, WoW Insider brings you Blood Pact for affliction, demonology, and destruction warlocks. Today, Megan O'Neill is your host, and she's hopefully not an idiot, though as this post goes live with the Mists of Pandaria press release news, this could very well signify nothing.

You could argue that an affliction warlock is like a shadow priest with a demon. Or that a destruction 'lock is like a fire mage with a demon. But it's hard to argue demonology as anything but warlock, especially when a demo 'lock is often a demon with a demon.

And yet for a long time, demonology had been the lesser of the three specs. In Wrath, it was popular opinion that demo 'locks were only there for the raid buff, despite the fact that well-played demo could be competitive and even beat the then-reigning affliction spec. The other popular use of demo was to farm either old dungeon fun or honorable kills as the nigh-unkillable, hybrid affliction, SL/SL-specced drain tank.

In Cataclysm, demo took a change for the better in its DPS output. It rose every tier and finally overtook affliction and destruction in Dragon Soul. But its ascent wasn't -- and still isn't -- without problems.

Swinging into a new style

Looking back over the Simulation Craft archives, demonology actually topped the simulated DPS charts more often than not. But the simulation doesn't often make mistakes, even on the "Ouch!" player skill setting. Demo simulates well enough, but in reality, a well-played demo 'lock requires excellent cooldown timing with encounter mechanics and the tedious practice some call pet twisting.

Demonology actually raided with two pets for most of Cataclysm. The felguard had the best Demon Soul effect for demo, but the felhunter was the best single-target DPS pet by far. Demo 'locks would start the encounter off with the felguard and pop all their cooldowns -- pre-pot, mastery trinkets, Metamorphosis, Demon Soul, and Doomguard -- and then once everything was done, they'd spend a soul shard to instantly summon the felhunter. When most of their cooldowns came up for use again, they'd hard cast a felguard for another Demon Soul.

It also didn't help that demonology has been the literal and figurative in-between spec. It's smack in the middle of the talent calculator, and it always has to get re-theorized every tier to decide whether the filler spell is Shadow Bolt or Incinerate. Every tier, every demo 'lock gets to relearn the rotation.

Finally, a big roadblock to demo warlock DPS was the massive difference in DPS that the Doomguard made. It's part of the demonology deal that Metamorphosis and demons boost off of mastery, but a bug made the Doomguard triple-dip the mastery bonus. Combined with a 10-minute cooldown, a wipe meant the demo warlock's DPS would drag along the bottom for the next one or two attempts until the Doomguard came off cooldown.

With Patch 4.3 came a wonderful nerf to the Doomguard that ended its triple-dipping. The nerf was welcomed, since it smoothed out the DPS spike. In Mists, the other problems are going away. Blizzard has said it wants to eliminate the pet twisting, and a new secondary resource means demo can finally have its own flavor to balance up and down.

But demo isn't quite out of the design cocoon yet.

How the fel does demonic fury work?

This is the big question about the talent calculator so far. It's what destruction got for blue post clarification, and it's what demo really needs to tell what exactly it's going to feel like. We know the secondary resource will be demonic fury, and we know various spells will generate certain amounts of fury and that Metamorphosis makes fury's effect more awesome.

Unfortunately, that's only half of it. We still need to know how demonic fury is spent and whether Metamorphosis is supposed to be the normal (infinite) state of DPSing or the exception (DPS cooldown) state.

The original idea was that a warlock would build up enough demonic fury (say, to 100) and at the maximum fury would just automatically shift into Metamorphosis. Then, after the fury drained to 0 during Metamorphosis, the warlock would return to normal racial form to begin the cycle again.

I'm not quite a fan of this generate-then-drain method. Destruction will already have a resource that builds and then spends. I'm a much bigger fan of Metamorphosis' requiring some active skill to DPS well with rather than a passive reward for performing the theorycrafted best pattern of spells to 100 fury.

I would like to see Metamorphosis an activated and then fury-driven state. It would be boring if staying in Metamorphosis were an easy thing -- that is, there's no fun if Metamorphosis is the default state for a demonology warlock. It's supposed to be an awesome moment when a warlock turns into the purple Illidan, not an expectation.

We don't know (as of writing this) if abilities that granted demonic fury outside of Metamorphosis will spend fury inside or not. I'd like to see the ability to generate some fury while still in Metamorphosis but have the spending or draining of fury eventually outweigh the gain. This way, warlocks could adapt Metamorphosis's timing to the encounters, stretching out Metamorphosis for only a little bit or as long as possible, depending on the raid's timing of specific phases or mechanics.

I've like demonic fury to be something that matters to demonology, something that is a mark of skill in the spec, not just another bar to fill up and down.

But what about warlock tanks?!

Let's face it: Nether Plating screams warlock tank.

Nether Plating for a clothy DPS class is odd, when you think about it. Sure, it's been a part of Metamorphosis for ages. Shaman lost their tanking viability a long time ago, but demonology warlocks still have the 6% reduction for being critically hit by melee attacks. Not even the plate DPS specs have that!

The armor increase is on par with tanking armor as well. With rounding, my bear has approximately 51.6k armor, in bear form with all her fine leather and bear-appropriate talents. My warlock has about 9.6k armor, and 600% of that would be 57.6k armor (my 'lock has 15 ilevels on my bear, OK?).

But without all that wonderful dodging or blocking or parrying or damage-absorbing buffs, warlock tanking isn't going to happen. Don't worry, my fellow demonics, I dream about drain tanking too -- but a sixth tank spec to balance with the others?

Keep dreaming.

Blood Pact is a weekly column detailing DOTs, demons and all the dastardly deeds done by warlocks. We'll coach you in the fine art of staying alive, help pick the best target for Dark Intent, and steer you through tier 13 set bonuses.
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